Wave, Indians eye WMass semifinals
GHS 10 Zach Bartak
After an epic Thanksgiving Day battle, Greenfield High School and Turners Falls High School are focused on advancing to the Western Massachusetts Super Bowls in their respective divisions.
They can both do that tonight at the James Woodward Athletic Complex in Orange where tonight’s WMass semifinal doubleheader will take place.
In Division III, third-seeded Greenfield takes on two-time defending champion and second-seeded Mt. Greylock Regional High School in the opener at 5:15 p.m., while in Division IV, second-seeded Turners Falls takes on third-seeded Ware High School in the nightcap at 7:45.
Here’s a closer look at both games:
Greenfield vs. Mt. Greylock
Belchertown High School earned the top seed in the Division due its higher ranking during the regular season, but Mt. Greylock is considered the favorite to win its third consecutive Super Bowl title.
The only reason the Mounties (9-1) did not earn the top seed is due to having lost to Wahconah Regional High School, 20-8, on Oct. 26, marking the first time they had lost in 33 contests, dating back to 2009. In that game, Greylock quarterback Hank Barrett was knocked out early with a neck injury that has cost him the rest of his season, and freshman Brodie Altiere came on to take his place. Altiere has remained at the position, but he does little more than hand the ball off to running back Ethan Ryan.
Ryan is a senior that has been tough to stop this season. When Greylock met Wahconah in the Berkshire County championship game, Greylock avenged the early-season loss with a 22-16 victory. In that game, Ryan took 21 handoffs for 155 yards and scored two touchdowns.
That will put the onus on the Green Wave defense to stop the run, something it struggled to do on Turkey Day when Turners Falls gashed it for 269 yards on 46 handoffs.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski admitted. “We’ve got our hands full with our run defense. We have to stop their running game to be successful. I think our kids will be ready.”
If Greenfield (8-2) has an upper hand in any area, it is in the passing game. Senior Zach Bartak missed the Green Wave’s last game before Turkey Day with a neck injury, but returned Thanksgiving morning. Bartak has rushed for over 1,000 yards and passed for more than 1,300 this season, and he will have to be at his best against a stingy Greylock defense.
Berkshire County teams do not pass the ball that much, so if Bartak can get time to throw, the Wave may be able to crack the Mounties. In Greylock’s loss to Wahconah, Warrior quarterback Lane Grogan threw for 196 yards, a number Bartak is easily capable of hitting.
“They play man-to-man defense and that’s our game,” Kuchieski said. “We score points by throwing the ball. If we can make some plays, we should be alright.”
Greenfield and Greylock have two common opponents this season in Monument Mountain and McCann Tech. Greylock knocked off Monument 38-14, while the Green Wave earned a 36-28 victory. Neither team had much trouble with McCann, as Greenfield won 36-8, while Greylock won 34-6.
The winner of the Greenfield-Greylock game will take on the winner of the Belchertown-St. Joseph’s Central (Pittsfield) High School contest in the Division III Super Bowl at Westfield State University at a time to be announced.
Turners Falls vs. Ware
Turners Falls is one of the hottest teams in western Mass.
The Indians (9-2) have won seven straight contests heading into tonight’s game against Ware (also nicknamed the Indians), and they have been getting it done on both sides of the ball.
Turners rides the high of knocking off Turkey Day rival Greenfield, 29-22, and moves closer to achieving the goal the team set for themselves prior to the season. That goal was put in jeopardy following a loss to Belchertown in the fourth week of the season that dropped the team to 2-2 on the year, but the current winning streak has the Indians thinking Super Bowl.
“I said at the time (after the Belchertown loss) I thought we had to take one step back to take one step ahead, and I think that’s held,” Turners coach Chris Lapointe said. “It was a good gut check and the seniors said at the time that they weren’t going to lose again this season.”
Offensively, the Indians have averaged just south of 40 points per game during the streak. Running back Ryan Wilder has quietly set his sights on a revered mark in the area. Wilder enters the game with 1,784 rushing yards on the season, which already puts him second in the area all-time. He sits just 67 yards shy of breaking former Greenfield quarterback Peter Bergeron’s all-time, single-season area rushing mark of 1,851 yards set back in 1995.
“Peter was one of the greatest players to ever come out of this area,” Lapointe said. “For Ryan to be in the same area as him is quite the achievement.”
Ware (7-3) has been nearly as hot to finish the season, winning six of its final seven games after starting the season 1-2. The teams have four common opponents this season: both teams beat Palmer High School, Dean Technical High School and Frontier. However, Turners beat Easthampton, 40-30, while Ware lost to the Eagles, 25-22.
Ware has a dynamic quarterback in senior Andrew Koczur who can run and throw the ball. The offense also revolves around running back tandem and brothers Zamah McCoy (senior) and Zerrod McCoy (junior), a pair of bruising backs that typically require more than one player to bring them down.
“We have been stressing gang-tackling,” Lapointe said. “We need to get more than one hat on those guys, and drive the legs to take them down.”
The winner of this game will take on the winner of the other Division IV semifinal between top-seeded Pathfinder Vocational High School and fourth-seeded Easthampton High School in Saturday’s Super Bowl at Westfield State.